Tag Archives: West Africa

Aframomum melegueta

Botanical Name :Aframomum melegueta
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Aframomum
Species: A. melegueta
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Zingiberales

Common Names;Grains of paradise, Melegueta pepper, Alligator pepper, Guinea grains or Guinea pepper
English : Guinea grains, Melegueta pepper, Alligator pepper
French :Graines de paradis, Malaguette, Poivre de Guinée, Maniguette
German : Paradieskörner, Guineapfeffer, Meleguetapfeffer, Malagettapfeffer
Spanish : Malagueta, Pimienta de malagueta

Habitat : Aframomum melegueta is native to West Africa, it is an important cash crop in the Basketo special woreda of southern Ethiopia.

Description:
A. melegueta is a herbaceous perennial plant native to swampy habitats along the West African coast. Its trumpet-shaped, purple flowers develop into 5 to 7 cm long pods containing numerous small, reddish-brown seeds.

Clicl to see Pictures of Aframomum melegueta :

The pungent, peppery taste of the seeds is caused by aromatic ketones; e.g., (6)-paradol (systematic name: 1-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-decan-3-one). Essential oils, which are the dominating flavor components in the closely-related cardamom, occur only in traces.

Medicinal Uses:
Used in West African herbal remedies, grains of paradise relieve flatulence and also have stimulant and diuretic effects. The seeds are in a number of veterinary medicines. They appear in old pharmacopoeias like Gerard’s for a variety of abdominal complaints.  Chinese herbalists often add it to fruits such as baked pears to reduce the production of mucus in the body.  Classified in traditional Chinese medicine as an acrid, warm herb.  It’s taken for nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, indigestion, gas and loss of appetite; morning sickness, pain and discomfort during pregnancy; involuntary urination.

Other Uses:
Melegueta is commonly employed in the cuisines of West and North Africa, where it has been traditionally imported via caravan routes through the Sahara desert, and whence they were distributed to Sicily and Italy. Mentioned by Pliny as “African pepper” but subsequently forgotten in Europe, they were renamed “grains of paradise” and became a popular substitute for black pepper in Europe in the 14th- and 15th-centuries. The Ménagier de Paris recommends it for improving wine that “smells stale”. Through the Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period, the theory of the Four Humours governed theorizing about nourishment on the part of doctors, herbalists and druggists: in this context, “graynes of paradise, hoot & moyste þey[clarification needed] be” John Russell observed, in The Boke of Nurture.

In 1469, King Afonso V of Portugal granted the monopoly of trade in the Gulf of Guinea to Lisbon merchant Fernão Gomes, including the exclusive trade of Aframomum melegueta, then called “malagueta” pepper – which was granted by 100 000 real-annually in exchange for exploring 100 miles of the coast of Africa a year for five years.[8] After Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492 and brought the first samples of Capsicum frutescens, the name malagueta was then taken to the new chilli “pepper”.

The importance of the spice is shown by the designation of the area from the St Johns River (present day Buchanan) to Harper in Liberia as the “Grain Coast” in honor of the availability of grains of paradise. Later, the craze for the spice waned, and its uses were reduced to a flavoring for sausages and beer. In the eighteenth century, its importation to Great Britain collapsed after a Parliamentary act of George III forbade its use in malt liquor, aqua vita and cordials. In 1855, England imported about 15,000 to 19,000 lbs per year legally(duty paid). By 1880, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th edition) was reporting, “Grains of paradise are to some extent used in veterinary practice but for the most part illegally to give a fictitious strength to malt liquors, gin and cordials”.

Today, it is largely unknown outside of West and North Africa, except for its use as a flavoring in some beers (including Samuel Adams Summer Ale), gins, and Norwegian akvavit. In America, grains of paradise are starting to enjoy a slight resurgence in popularity due to their use by some well-known chefs. Alton Brown is a fan of its use, and he uses it in his apple pie recipe on an episode of the TV cooking show Good Eats. They are also used by people on certain diets, such as a raw food diet, because they are less irritating to digestion than black pepper.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Afra_mel.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aframomum_melegueta
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_FGH.htm

Marburg virus

Definition:
Marburg virus or simply Marburg is the common name for the genus of viruses Marburgvirus, which contains one species, Lake Victoria marburgvirus. The virus causes the disease Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever (MHF), also referred to as Marburg Virus Disease, and previously also known as green monkey disease due to its primate origin. Marburg originated in Central and East Africa, and infects both human and nonhuman primates. The Marburg Virus is in the same taxonomic family as Ebola, and both are identical structurally although they elicit different antibodies.

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Ebola virus and Marburg virus live in animal hosts, and humans can contract the viruses from infected animals. After the initial transmission, the viruses can spread from person to person through contact with body fluids or contaminated needles.

Marburg virus is a severe and highly contagious form of haemorrhagic fever caused by a virus from the same family – the filoviruses – as Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF), although it’s not as deadly as its cousin.

No drug has been approved to treat Ebola virus or Marburg virus. People diagnosed with Ebola or Marburg virus receive supportive care and treatment for complications. Scientists are coming closer to developing vaccines for these deadly diseases.

The virus was first discovered in 1967, during simultaneous outbreaks at laboratories in the former Yugoslavia and Frankfurt and Marburg, Germany. Since 1967 sporadic small outbreaks have been reported but in 2004-5 a major outbreak in Angola led to more than 140 deaths from the Marburg virus.

Symptoms:
During the incubation period, which lasts between five and ten days, no symptoms are apparent.

You may click to see:Marburg Virus Pictures from CDC

Signs and symptoms typically begin abruptly within five to 10 days of infection. Early signs and symptoms include:

*Fever
*Severe headache
*Joint and muscle aches
*Chills
*Sore throat
*Weakness

Over time, symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:

*Nausea and vomiting
*Diarrhea (may be bloody)
*Red eyes
*Raised rash
*Chest pain and cough
*Stomach pain
*Severe weight loss
*Bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, eyes and ears

The disease can then become increasingly damaging, causing:

•Jaundice
•Delirium
•Liver failure
•Extensive haemorrhage from multiple sites, which can give rise to bloody diarrhoea and vomiting of blood (known as heamatemesis)

Many people infected with the virus die, usually from haemorrhagic shock or liver failure. In areas where medical support is poor, the death rate can be much higher. The infection can be difficult to diagnose, because many of the initial signs are similar to those of other infectious diseases, such as malaria or typhoid fever.

Causes:
The virus appears to be rare and only found in Africa where cases have occurred in Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Angola. In the natural habitat the reservoir of the virus is the Egyptian fruit bat, which is found in Africa, but how the virus jumps from animals to humans is not known. Some people have developed the disease after visiting caves where the bats are found.

Transmission from animals to humans:
The virus can be transmitted to humans by exposure to an infected animal’s bodily fluids. Examples include:

*Blood. Butchering or eating infected animals can spread the viruses. Scientists who have operated on infected animals as part of their research have also contracted the virus.

*Waste products. Tourists in certain African caves and some underground mine workers have been infected with the Marburg virus, possibly through contact with the feces or urine of infected bats.

Transmission from person to person :
Infected people typically don’t become contagious until they develop symptoms. Family members are often infected as they care for sick relatives or prepare the dead for burial.

Once a human is infected they can pass the virus on to others through their body fluids, most commonly blood but also faeces, saliva and vomit. The virus may also possibly be spread via aerosols of tiny infected droplets produced when patients cough and splutter. However, the research suggests that sick humans don’t usually generate sufficient volumes of infectious aerosols to pose a significant hazard to those around them.

Medical personnel can be infected if they don’t use protective gear such as surgical masks and latex gloves. Medical centers in Africa are often so poor that they must reuse needles and syringes. Some of the worst Ebola epidemics have occurred because contaminated injection equipment wasn’t sterilized between uses.

There’s no evidence that Ebola virus or Marburg virus can be spread via insect bites.

Risk Factors:
For most people — including international travelers — the risk of getting Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever is low. The risk increases if you:

*Travel to Africa. You’re at increased risk if you visit or work in areas where Ebola virus or Marburg virus outbreaks have occurred in the past.

*Conduct animal research. People are more likely to contract the Ebola or Marburg virus if they conduct animal research with monkeys imported from Africa or the Philippines.

*Provide medical or personal care. Family members are often infected as they care for sick relatives. Medical personnel also can be infected if they don’t use protective gear such as surgical masks and latex gloves.Prepare people for burial. The bodies of people who have died of Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever are still contagious. Helping prepare these bodies for burial can increase your risk of developing the disease yourself.

Complications:
Both Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers lead to death for a high percentage of people who are affected. As the illness progresses, it can cause:

*Multiple organ failure
*Severe bleeding
*Jaundice
*Delirium
*Seizures
*Coma
*Shock

One reason the viruses are so deadly is that they interfere with the immune system’s ability to mount a defense. But scientists don’t understand why some people recover from Ebola and Marburg and others don’t.

For people who survive, recovery is slow. It may take months to regain weight and strength, and the viruses remain in the body for many weeks. People may experience:

*Hair loss
*Sensory changes
*Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
*Weakness
*Fatigue
*Headaches
*Eye inflammation
*Testicular inflammation

Diagnosis:
Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers are difficult to diagnose because many of the early signs and symptoms resemble those of other infectious diseases, such as typhoid and malaria. But if doctors suspect that you have been exposed to Ebola virus or Marburg virus, they use laboratory tests that can identify the viruses within a few days.

Most people with Ebola or Marburg hemorrhagic fever have high concentrations of the virus in their blood. Blood tests known as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) can detect specific genes or the virus or antibodies to them.

It is similar to Ebola using the Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA) test. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique has been successfully used for detection of Marburg virus. PCR detection for Marburg virus by Hänninen 2001

Treatment :
There is no cure for Marburg disease as there is no specific antiviral therapy indicated for treating Marburg, and hospital care is usually supportive in nature. Hypotension and shock may require early administration of vasopressors and haemodynamic monitoring with attention to fluid and electrolyte balance, circulatory volume, and blood pressure. Viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) patients tend to respond poorly to fluid infusions and may develop pulmonary edema.

Prognosis:
If a patient survives, recovery is usually prompt and complete, though it may be prolonged in some cases, with inflammation or secondary infection of various organs, including: orchitis (testicles), hepatitis (liver), transverse myelitis (spinal cord), uveitis (eyes), and parotitis (salivary glands) Recovered patients often have little or no memory of being sick, though only 40-60% survive.

Prevention:
Strict hygiene measures help to prevent spread when an outbreak occurs, and an experimental vaccine is currently being tested.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/marburg_virus.shtml
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ebola-virus/DS00996
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marburg_virus
http://hardinmd.lib.uiowa.edu/cdc/275.html

http://hardinmd.lib.uiowa.edu/cdc/6562.html

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Alligator pepper

Botanical Name :Alligator pepper
Family :Zingerberaceae (Ginger family).
Synonym :Amomum melegueta.

Common Names: Grains of paradise, nengrekondre pepre, alligator pepper, guinea grains, graines de paradis, atar, paradies kõrner, grani de Meleguetta, paradijs korrels, Grana paradise, poivre de Guinée, malaguette, Malagettapfeffer, grani de paradiso.

Parts Used: Dried ripe seeds and oil. In commerce the pods and seeds are found whole, shelled, and ground (green or roasted).

Habitat :Alligator pepper is  native to West Africa; brought over to Surinam by the slaves to swampy habitats along the West African coast.

Description:
A herbaceous plant reaching 1-4 m in height. The stem is short and marked with scars of fallen leaves. The leaves are lanceolate and  about 30 cm long and 12 cm wide, with close nerves below. The flowers are handsome, aromatic and with orange-coloured lip and a rich pinkish-orange upper part. The fruits are fleshy and indehiscent, and contains numerous small golden- or red-brown seeds. USES The cardemom-flavored seeds are used as a spice and carminative and the can also be used to spice wine and beer. Fruit, seed, leaf and rhizome have medicinal properties.

You may click to see the pictures..

The plants which provide alligator pepper are herbaceous perennials  flowering plants  reaching 1-4 m in height.The stem is short and marked with scars of fallen leaves. The leaves are about 30 cm long and 12 cm wide, with close nerves below. The flowers are handsome, aromatic and with orange-coloured lip and a rich pinkish-orange upper part. Once the pod is open and the seeds are revealed the reason for this spice’s common English name becomes apparent as the seeds have a papery skin enclosing them and the bumps of the seeds within this skin is reminiscent of an alligator’s back.

The trumpet-shaped, purple flowers develop into 5 – 7 cm long grayish – brown, wrinkled dried pods (capsules) containing the numerous very small seeds.
These are almost oval in shape, hard, shiny, and have a reddish-brown color.

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The numerous seeds are borne in grayish – brown capsules.
The important part of this plant is the seed; the small (3-4 mm =1/8″) reddish – brown seeds have a pungent aroma with a pepper – like heat.
This much sought after spice is tempered with, among others, flavors reminiscing of hazelnut, butter and citrus.
The essential oil from grains of paradise consists of two sesquiterpenes, humelene and caryophyllene and the oxides of these.
It has an exotic tropical scent and flavor and is used for the production of beer, wine and spirits, and the flavoring of vinegar.
It is used in the Surinam cuisine to flavor dishes such as vegetables (okra and tomatoes recipes), soups (lentil and chicken) and fish recipes.
The rhizome of the plant is used medicinally and is also is an important part from the diet of Western lowland gorillas in Africa.

As mbongo spice the seeds of alligator pepper is often sold as the grains themselves, isolated from the pod and with the outer skin removed. Mbongo spice is most commonly either Aframomum danielli or Aframomum citratum and has a more floral aroma than Aframomum exscapum (which is the commonest source of the entire pod).

It is a common ingredient in West African cuisine where it imparts both ‘heat’, ‘pungency‘ and a spicy aroma to classic West African ‘soups’ (stews).

Use in cuisine:
Even in West Africa, alligator pepper is an expensive spice and is used sparingly. Often a single whole pod is pounded in a pestle and mortar before half of it is added (along with black pepper) as a flavouring to West African ‘soups’ (stews) or to boiled rice. The spice can also be substituted in any recipe using grains of paradise or black cardamom to provide a hotter and more pungent flavour.

When a baby is born in Yoruba culture, they are given a small taste of alligator pepper shortly after birth as part of the routine baby welcoming process and it is also used as an ingredient at traditional meet-and-greets.

In Igbo land, alligator pepper with kola nuts are used in naming ceremonies, as presentation to visiting guests and for other social events.

Click to see :Water leaf, alligator pepper treats hypertension – survey ….

Medicinal Uses:
As a purgative, galactogogue (to increase production of breast milk), anthelmintic- and hemostatic agent (purifies the blood). It is also effective against schistosomiasis (bilharzia).
Further is it used against intestinal infections, infestations, to calm indigestion and heartburn.
The seeds of Aframomum melegueta possess potent anti-inflammatory activity with a favorable gastric tolerability profile.
Phytochemical analysis revealed the presence of alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, sterols, triterpenes, and oils, while the methanol fraction contains alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, sterols, and resins.
The pungent, peppery taste of the seeds is caused by aromatic ketones such as (6)-paradol; essential oils occur only in traces.

Some of the known areas of application are to cure Arthritis, boil, pimples, and any inflammatory disease. Alligator pepper is used in combination of one or two other components to cure different sicknesses. For information on different application go to web site: http://www.free-est.com.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is  always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alligator_pepper
http://www.tropilab.com/nengrekondrepepre.html
http://finimanaturepark.org/capacity-building/community-capacity/
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=2872
http://hubpages.com/hub/Alligator-pepper

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Pondapple

Botanical Name :Annona glabra
Family: Annonaceae
Genus: Annona
Species: A. glabra
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Magnoliales
Synonyms:Annona australis,Annona chrysocarpa,Annona laurifolia,Annona palustris,Annona peruviana

Common Names: Pond-apple, Alligator-apple, Corkwood, Bobwood, and Monkey-apple. The name Alligator-apple derives from the fact that American Alligators sometimes eat the fruit.

Habitat : The tree is native to Florida in the United States, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and West Africa

Description:
Pond-apple tree is generally semi-decidious.It grows in swamps, is tolerant of saltwater, and cannot grow in dry soil. The trees grow to a height of around 10–12 m. They have thin, gray trunks and sometimes grow in clumps. The leaves are ovate and  alternate.  They are   oblong with an acute tip, 8–15 cm long and 4–6 cm broad.They can be more than 4 in (10 cm) long, and are shiny green on the upper face.The pond apple has flowers with white petals which have a pink base. They are about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter. The fruit is oblong to spherical and apple-sized or larger, 7–15 cm long and up to 9 cm diameter, and falls when it is green or ripening yellow. It disperses by floating to new locations, and it is food for many animal species. It is edible for humans, and can be made into jam, although the taste is usually not preferable to Soursop and other related fruits. The flesh is sweet-scented and agreeable in flavor, but it has never attained general popular use.

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The pond apple is a rounded fruit that is similar either to a rounded mango, or an apple. This fruit can be up to 4 in (10 cm) long and more, and is yellow-green when ripe. Its flesh is edible and aromatic, even if this fruit is seldom consumed. In fact, this wild fruit is considered to be inferior in quality to its more well-known relatives like cherimoya, atemoya and custard apple. However, the pond apple can be eaten raw, or transformed into juice.


Cultivation:

*Annona glabra requiert les expositions suivantes : lumière,soleil
*This tree can grow in very moist soils.

Experiments in South Florida have been made in an attempt to use it as a superior rootstock for Sugar-apple or Soursop. While the grafts initially appear to be effective a high percentage of them typically fail over time. Soursop on Pond-apple rootstock has a dwarfing effect.

Although tropical, a mature pond apple can withstand brief negative temperatures down to about 28°F/26°F. (-2°C to -3°C) This tree is considered as invasive in many tropical areas.

It is a very troublesome invasive species in Australia. There it grows in estuaries and chokes mangrove swamps, where its seedlings carpet the banks and prevent other species from germinating or thriving.


Constituents:

On a preliminary screening, substantial antimicrobial, antifungal and moderate insecticidal, sporicidal and cytotoxic activities were observed for the hexane extract of the stem bark of Annona glabra L. Chromatographic fractionation of this extract led to the isolation of kaur-16-en-19-oic acid in a large amount as the main constituent, which was found to be largely responsible for the biological activities possessed by the crude extract.

Medicinal Uses:
A recent study suggests that its alcoholic seed extract contains anticancer compounds that could be used pharmaceutically.

Traditional remedy or use: Wood used to make rafts, sharpen blades and bottle corks. Insect repellent and fish poison. Emetic; Used to treat tuberculosis, abdominal cramps, colic, diarrhea, dysentery, jaundice and rheumatism. Tea was used as a vermifuge.

Modern remedy or use: Genus being researched as a treatment for cancer, malaria and H.I.V.

You may click to see :Anticancer effects of Annona glabra plant extracts in human leukemia cell lines.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://coolexotics.com/plant-400-annona-glabra.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annona_glabra
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2059/
http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=187&fr=1&sts=
http://www.medgarden.org/plantfiles/annona_glabra.html
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T8D-3YVD0GR-G&_user=10&_coverDate=08%2F11%2F1995&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=55610d05197843748fa24a1b1e2aafd0&searchtype=a
http://www.uni-kl.de/FB-Biologie/Botanik/2006_s-laube.html

 

The Vitamin D Solution

A press release by the publisher Penguin declares the release of Dr. Michael F. Holick’s latest book about the remarkable health benefits of vitamin D.

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“What do obesity, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and fibromyalgia have in common?

The answer is vitamin D deficiency,” the press release states.

“More than 200 million Americans lack this essential vitamin. In the landmark book The Vitamin D Solution, Dr. Michael F. Holick identifies the causes of vitamin D deficiency, outlines why it is essential to your health, and provides a 3-step program to attain optimal levels of Vitamin D.

Increasing levels of vitamin D can treat, prevent, and even reverse a remarkable number of daily ailments, from high blood pressure to back pain. It can lessen the symptoms of chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, and actually prevent infectious diseases, including H1N1 and cancer. Dr. Holick also credits vitamin D with improving infertility, weight control, memory and mood.”

Source: Eurekalert April 1, 2010

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